It seems like such a basic tip: drink water for health. Yet despite how ubiquitous this advice has been for many years, people still often discount the many benefits of something as simple as staying hydrated.
You might already be familiar with the physical benefits – research has proven that water helps carry nutrients to the cells, aids in digestion and removes toxins from the body. However, recent studies have shown that just a small amount of dehydration can also have an impact on mental cognition.
Drinking enough water is simple yet critical for the proper functioning of your mind and body. In this article, we’ll dive a bit more deeply into the connection between hydration and fitness and then give you five helpful tips to get hydrated quickly and stay that way throughout the day.
Drinking enough water throughout the day is important no matter what kind of fitness goals you have. Even if you just want to improve your general wellness, proper rehydration will boost performance both physically and mentally.
Because of water’s important role in carrying nutrients throughout the body, dehydration can stifle your ability to build and retain muscle. A study of endurance cyclists showed an association between dehydration and reduced blood flow to the muscles. Without adequate blood flow, your body won’t be able to deliver the nutrients your muscles need to grow.
If your goal is to lose body weight, drinking water is still vital because of hydration’s impact on the appetite. A 2016 study found people with inadequate hydration were more likely to have obesity and a higher body mass index (BMI). Drinking enough water is a commonly-recommended weight loss tool that may seem basic, but it’s an important foundation that will support any other strategies you may have for losing fat.
The most common recommendation everyone seems to have heard is to drink eight glasses of water per day. At roughly eight ounces per glass, this rule is sometimes referred to as the “8x8” rule for hydration. It’s a good place to start, but the actual amount of water you need will vary based on your habits, biology and climate.
A study by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, “showed that women who appear to be adequately hydrated consume an average of approximately 2.7 liters (91 ounces) of total water -- from all beverages and foods -- each day, and men average approximately 3.7 liters (125 ounces) daily.”
However, the study went on to point out that these levels are representative only of adequate hydration. For both men and women who engage in athletic activity or live in hot climates, more fluids may be needed to hydrate. If you have one or more pre-existing medical conditions, that can also have an impact on your daily hydration status.
Finally it’s important to note that hydration can come through food as well. Certain foods have high water content – eating a sufficient amount will help add to your overall fluid intake (more on this later).
Now that we’ve addressed some of the basic reasons staying hydrated is important and discussed some of the science behind hydration, below are five tips to help you
Whether you are working from home or commuting back and forth to the office, one of the best ways to ensure you stay hydrated is to always have a bottle of water with you. It’s very easy to find water bottles of all sizes and materials today so you can purchase the one that works best for you. If you find the right-sized water bottle and set a daily goal to drink two or three fill-ups, you’ll likely meet your hydration goals easily.
Hydration aside, vegetables are a great food option to help your overall health. Most veggies are packed with vitamins and minerals and they are also light on caloric density, meaning you can eat many of them without too many calories impacting your diet. But there’s another big benefit of consuming vegetables: they help you stay hydrated! Studies show that some vegetables are up to 90 percent water. Cucumbers, lettuce, zucchini and celery include some of the vegetables highest in water content – but feel free to choose the varieties that you like most, as almost all vegetables are relatively high in water compared to other foods!
If you are going to be working out consistently or even if you will be outside frequently in a hot climate, it’s important to make sure you schedule times to recover in cool areas with plenty of hydration. Harvard Medical School advises people who are working out to consume at least two to three cups of water per hour – more if you are undertaking an intense workout and sweating heavily. If you can’t drink water while you are working out, make sure you have a plan for rehydrating directly afterwards. Be sure you know the signs of dehydration so that you can determine if you still need to drink or not – typical indicators are a feeling of thirst, fatigue, and dark-colored urine.
As mentioned above, water is not the only way to stay hydrated. Foods can supply water, as can other types of beverages like fruit and vegetable juices. Even coffee and tea, which have a reputation as dehydrating, can help with hydration in the right amounts. All this is to say that if you are having trouble drinking enough water each day, you may have other options! You can always try one of the many sports drinks available on the market, which are typically made with electrolytes to help hydration. Juices can be made from a variety of fresh fruits including apple, tomato, watermelon and carrot. Coconut water has also become popular recently as a sports drink alternative, thanks to its high levels of potassium, which is important to replenish after an intense workout.
However, if you are going to buy pre-made juices, be sure to read labels carefully – many are packed with sugars, artificial sweeteners, and other unnecessary additives that can be harmful to your health. Also remember that drinks like coffee are diuretics, which make you use the bathroom and lose fluids.
One of the best ways to ensure you get sufficient water intake is to consume water along with protein powder. Of course, you can mix your protein powder with other kinds of beverages, including milk or juice – but water is simple, quick, and provides a great canvas to enjoy the natural flavor of your protein powder. The same advice above applies when it comes to protein and meal replacement shakes: make sure to check the label and source your protein powder from a dependable provider that uses quality ingredients.
It may not seem like it, but the simple act of hydrating – whether you are drinking plain water or sports drinks – can have a huge impact on your health. For concrete medical advice on how much water you personally should drink, contact a healthcare specialist such as a dietitian or nutritionist. By getting a plan in place to hydrate, experimenting with different sources, and understanding the symptoms of dehydration, you can make sure your body has enough water to perform at a high level, both at the gym and the office.